NFC North: Ahmad Rashad

Ahmad Rashad, Bob Bruer, Brent BoydAP Photo
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This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in Minnesota Vikings history. We looked at Brett Favre’s interception in the 2010 NFC Championship Game on Monday, and we’ll feature Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the 1999 NFC Championship Game tomorrow. Please vote for your choice as the Vikings’ most memorable play.

Score: Vikings 28, Browns 23
Date: Dec. 14, 1980 Site: Metropolitan Stadium.

Description: The Vikings' 1980 NFC Central Division championship was the last of 11 titles they'd win under coach Bud Grant, and they clinched it on one of the most dramatic finishes in team history.


Which is the most memorable play in Vikings' history?


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Trailing the Cleveland Browns by a point with 14 seconds left, the Vikings got the ball on their own 20 with no timeouts left. They needed just nine seconds to move to the Browns' 46, thanks to a hook-and-lateral pass that wound up in the arms of running back Ted Brown. Then, quarterback Tommy Kramer -- whose 456 passing yards are still the most by a Vikings quarterback in a non-overtime game -- lofted a pass toward the right side of the end zone as time expired. Three Browns defenders leaped for the ball, but tipped it back to receiver Ahmad Rashad, who reached out and caught the ball as he backpedaled across the goal line. Vikings players piled on top of Rashad -- who finished with nine catches for 142 yards and two scores -- in the corner of the end zone, and both teams poured off the field before the extra point could be attempted.

The victory secured the division title for the Vikings with a week to go in the season and set up a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Vikings lost the game, 31-16, and by the time they reached the playoffs again, in the strike-shortened season of 1982, they had already moved into the Metrodome. That meant the "Miracle at the Met" was the last great moment of Grant's coaching career at Metropolitan Stadium, and with the Vikings set to move back outdoors for two seasons starting this fall, the old footage of players mobbing Rashad on a frigid day (wind chill at kickoff was 11 degrees) is particularly poignant.
Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant checks in at No. 15 on ESPN's countdown of the greatest coaches in NFL history.

From the outside, Grant projected the tough, no-nonsense approach of a classic mid-century football coach. But what has always amazed and often entertained me is the level of psychology Grant employed during his tenure.

In the video, Pro Football Hall of Fame vice president Joe Horrigan said Grant would wear shirtsleeves on the sidelines as mental warfare against opponents. Was he demonstrating how to tough it out during brutal weather conditions? Was he telling the other team that he and his players were better adapted to the cold? Opponents were left to decide.

Former player Ahmad Rashad noted Grant's theory on illness: You played better when you were sick because your focus was narrowed. And this 1976 article provides a rundown of Grant's use of humor to motivate. When a particularly deep-sleeping team employee began snoring next to the pool at a team hotel, Grant dumped a wastebasket of ice water on him -- defying team officials who said the employee couldn't be woken up. "Nothing's impossible," the article quotes Grant as saying.

That was Bud Grant, as much as four Super Bowl